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Considered one of rock music's royalty, Prince captivated millions with his multitude of talents, unique artistry, and eccentric behavior. His decades-long career began in his hometown of Minneapolis, MN, where the artist crafted his genre-bending musical style that incorporated funk, soul, R&B, rock, and pop. Beginning with his 1979 self-titled debut, Prince rivaled the success of Michael Jackson and Madonna in the 1980s with groundbreaking albums such as 1999 (1982) and Purple Rain (1984). The latter spawned a cavalcade of pop anthems like "Let's Go Crazy" and "When Doves Cry," as well as an extremely profitable film of the same name, released in 1984, which starred the singer. A gifted songwriter, Prince often used sexually suggestive lyrics for his own provocative tracks and for other artists. From his androgynous stage costumes, to his shy offstage persona, to dating some of the world's most beautiful women, Prince's theatrical and envelope-pushing behavior made headlines, but none more so than when he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol in 1993. After an embittered legal and creative battle with his longtime record label Warner Bros., Prince took full control of his career and...
Considered one of rock music's royalty, Prince captivated millions with his multitude of talents, unique artistry, and eccentric behavior. His decades-long career began in his hometown of Minneapolis, MN, where the artist crafted his genre-bending musical style that incorporated funk, soul, R&B, rock, and pop. Beginning with his 1979 self-titled debut, Prince rivaled the success of Michael Jackson and Madonna in the 1980s with groundbreaking albums such as 1999 (1982) and Purple Rain (1984). The latter spawned a cavalcade of pop anthems like "Let's Go Crazy" and "When Doves Cry," as well as an extremely profitable film of the same name, released in 1984, which starred the singer. A gifted songwriter, Prince often used sexually suggestive lyrics for his own provocative tracks and for other artists. From his androgynous stage costumes, to his shy offstage persona, to dating some of the world's most beautiful women, Prince's theatrical and envelope-pushing behavior made headlines, but none more so than when he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol in 1993. After an embittered legal and creative battle with his longtime record label Warner Bros., Prince took full control of his career and reemerged as a successful businessman, producer, and concert artist. In 2004, Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a testament to his contributions to music as one of the greatest artists of all time.
He was born Prince Rogers Nelson on June 7, 1958 in Minneapolis, MN to John Nelson, the leader of a local jazz band, and Mattie Shaw, the band's vocalist. A self-taught musician, Prince started playing piano at seven, guitar at 13, and drums at 14. The preteen formed the band Grand Central while attending Central High School in Minneapolis. The group later changed its name to Champagne and played music inspired by Sly & the Family Stone, James Brown, and Parliament-Funkadelic. Prince recorded his demo tape in 1976 with the help of producer Chris Moon at his Minneapolis studio. Moon shared the demo with businessman Owen Husney, who negotiated Prince's recording contract with Warner Bros. In April 1978, just two months shy of his 20th birthday, Prince released his debut album For You, which bore the artist's signature tagline: "Produced, arranged, composed, and performed by Prince." The album produced the minor hit "Soft and Wet," a track he co-wrote with Moon that reached No. 92 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
His self-titled sophomore album, released in 1979, marked Prince's first mainstream success, thanks to the R&B hits "I Wanna Be Your Lover" and "Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?" Reportedly written in just seven weeks, Prince's second album went platinum and launched his pop career. Audiences were introduced to the artist when he performed on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" (ABC, 1952-1989) in 1980. With his keyboard-driven musical style, suggestive lyrics, and overtly sexual presence, Prince dominated the '80s with a slew of commercially and critically successful albums. Dirty Mind (1980), with songs about oral sex and incest, established the artist's provocative artistry and image, while Controversy (1981) certified his mainstream appeal. While both albums went platinum, Prince elevated to superstardom with the ambitious double album 1999, which spawned the Top 10 singles "Little Red Corvette," "Delirious," and the title track. His music reached an even wider audience thanks to regular rotation on MTV and sold-out concert tours. Prince's onstage performances often featured the petite-framed singer wearing black bikini underpants, fishnet stockings, and stiletto heels. For his backing band The Revolution, Prince assembled a group of talented musicians, including childhood friend Andre Cymone, as well as future protégés Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman. Throughout his career, Prince discovered and mentored several hit-making artists, from Minneapolis group The Time, female trio Vanity 6, and Latin percussionist Sheila E.
Prince eclipsed all that had come before with the release of his landmark album Purple Rain. The album sold more than 13 million copies and spent 24 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, largely due to the singles "When Doves Cry," "Let's Go Crazy," and the title track. Prince's feature film debut came with the seemingly autobiographical film "Purple Rain," which followed an aspiring Minneapolis musician named "The Kid" (Prince) as he deals with family and girlfriend problems while chasing the dream. The film also featured singer Apollonia Kotero as his love interest, Clarence Williams III as "The Kid's" abusive father, and The Time's vocalist Morris Day as his nemesis. Prince made history in 1984 when he became the first artist to simultaneously have the No. 1 album, single, and film in the country. "Purple Rain" also picked up Hollywood's highest honor, an Academy Award in 1984 for Best Original Song Score. The following year, Prince and The Revolution won Best Group Rock Vocal ("Purple Rain") and R&B Song of the Year ("I Feel For You") at the Grammy Awards.
Even though he was a dynamic performer on both stage and screen, Prince was extremely shy and mysterious offstage, from declining to take part in the all-star recording session of "We Are the World" (1985), to occasionally penning songs under the pseudonym "Alexander Nevermind." The artist courted controversy for his uninhibited lyrics and sexually charged image, including the instance when his song "Darling Nikki" inspired Tipper Gore to form the Parents Music Resource Center and to spearhead the U.S. Senate hearings on offensive music lyrics, which some musicians saw as a form of censorship. Prince continued to display even more of his eccentric persona, giving Michal Jackson a run for his money in the oddball department - from announcing he was retiring from live performances and making music videos after the release of his album Around the World in a Day (1985), to disbanding The Revolution. He formed his own record label called Paisley Park, which shared its name with the artist's own recording complex Paisley Park Studios in Minnesota. In 1986, Prince directed and starred in his second film "Under the Cherry Moon," where he played a gigolo who falls in love with a French heiress (Kristin Scott Thomas) whom he tries to swindle.
No longer billed as Prince and The Revolution, he reemerged as a solo artist and released the critically acclaimed albums Sign o' the Times (1987) and Lovesexy (1988). He returned to the top of the charts with the 1989 soundtrack to Tim Burton's "Batman." The over-the-top theme song "Batdance" claimed the No. 1 spot on Billboard's mainstream and R&B charts. That same year, Prince collaborated with fellow pop superstar Madonna on her landmark album "Like a Prayer," where he co-wrote the track "Love Song" and played guitar on several songs. He welcomed the 1990s with a new band, The New Power Generation, and another hit album Diamonds and Pearls (1991). His 12th album, released in 1992, featured an unpronounceable hieroglyph that combined the male and female symbols. Prince made his most head-scratching move the following year after he adopted the symbol as his own stage name as an act of defiance against his longtime label Warner Bros. Billed as "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince" (shortened to "The Artist") he and Warner Bros. parted ways after the label dropped its distribution deal with Paisley Park in 1994. The Artist released a succession of commercially unsuccessful albums to force himself out of his contract, consistently insisting the label was restricting his artistic freedom.
Following his separation with Warner Bros., The Artist released his triple-disc album Emancipation (1996) under the NPG label. The album was certified platinum and featured, for the first time in his career, cover songs such as Joan Osborne's "One of Us" (1995) and Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me" (1991). After years of being romantically linked with sexy protégés Vanity and Sheila E., as well as fellow celebrities like Sheena Easton, Kim Basinger and Carmen Electra, The Artist wed the New Power Generation's backup singer and dancer Mayte Garcia on Feb. 14, 1996. The couple had a son who died shortly after his birth in October 1996 due to a rare genetic disorder called Pfeiffer's Syndrome. He eventually dropped the symbol moniker in 2000, the same year his publishing contract with Warner/Chappell expired, and reverted back to Prince.
He continued to release albums and tour extensively, including the successful "One Nite Alone Tour." After several years away from the spotlight, Prince made his comeback with an electrifying performance of his hits, accompanied by pop star Beyoncé, at the 2004 Grammy Awards. A month later, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That same year, Rolling Stone named Prince the highest-earning musician in the world, thanks to the concert tour in support of the album Musicology (2004). He further established his reputation as one of music's most successful concert artists with headlining appearances at London's O2 Arena in 2007 and the Coachella Festival in 2008. Prince was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2010, the same year he banned digital music sites such as YouTube and iTunes from releasing any of his music because, according to his interview with U.K. publication The Mirror, the eternal iconoclast felt the Internet was "outdated."
By Marc Cuenco
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Prince has also written songs for other recording artists, including Sheena Easton and Sheila E., under the pseudonym of Alexander Nevermind.
His Web site is located at www.180newfunk.com
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